Bready or Not

My skills at drawing are so bad that when I draw a stick figure, people think it’s a doodle. So I use prosthetics to sketch designs and see what I like and what I don’t. This is intended to be a bread-scoring knife for commentariat(tm) member jazzlet.

I suppose I could go to production from the drawing – like I did with the water-jet cut bars (that did not work out very well at all) – but mostly it’s a good way of accurately exploring what will fit onto a bar. I can set up an area on a piece of paper in the dimensions of my bar, then design stuff that might fit within the bar.

Before I downloaded Inkscape (free!) and started experimenting with it, I just did my layouts on a bar by spraypainting it with gray primer and marking on it with a sharpie.

Option A: “tactical”

There is a measuring tool in Inkscape, which is useful – you can see the length of a region you draw on the page – i.e.: I can measure the ‘edge’ – 74.4mm – that looks pretty good to me. Overall length, 200mm. I want to make the “handle” longer than one of my typical scalpels, to keep the user’s hand away from oven heat.

Option B: “swoopy”

The next step is cutting out the outline, transferring it to a piece of vinyl flooring, and then tracing that on a bar. I do the transitional step through the vinyl flooring because:

  1. vinyl flooring is cheap
  2. vinyl flooring is nice and thick so it’s easy to use as a template
  3. vinyl flooring is darned near indestructible
  4. vinyl flooring is easy to store

Once that’s done, I will cut it out with a diamond wheel on an angle grinder, and grind the decarbonized metal (someone with some chemistry knowledge might be able to tell us what that is, and why it is so !*#$(! hard) off, then I can rough-shape it and harden it, then finish-grind it and play with etching it and putting an edge on it.

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Operations note: I have gotten pulled into an incident response and I’m keeping weird hours and having conference calls and running long searches through syslog data. That means I may be a bit spotty for the next ${whatever}

I consider most of what I have been doing, metal-wise, as “farting around” – I have a very specific target very clearly in mind, but I’m just not able to do it yet. Soon, though! In the meantime, these big chisel-bevels and the metallurgy are valuable practice.


  1. jazzlet says

    Oooooh :D

    The handle doesn’t have to be that long, you do the slashing just before you put the bread in the oven so no heat is involved until fter you’ve done it Probably a bit late to tell you that, it’s a classic case of what is obvious to me clearly wasn’t obvious to you :)

  2. kestrel says

    That knife has a very elegant shape. I think it will be a beauty. “Swoopy”, eh?

    “Well Swoopy I don’t care what your daddy do
    ‘Cause you know Swoopy girl I’m in love with you…”

  3. says

    That knife has a very elegant shape. I think it will be a beauty. “Swoopy”, eh?

    It seems that bezier curves result in aesthetically pleasing blade geometries. It’s tremendous fun to just fart around in inkscape – put down as few points as possible to define a knife.

    Michael Bell explained it to us that the outlines of a Japanese sword (back, edge, ridgeline) are circles that overlap at two points. So everything intersects a bit beyond the end of the tang, and a bit beyond the tip. He explained at length how sword-makers think in this manner, then said, “and mostly you learn to eyeball it.”

  4. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Ooooh! I love the “snoopy” version.

    I’ve also just started a long-term bread-baking project. I haven’t baked bread with any frequency for 20+ years but I’m doing it now partly for money reasons & partly as an artistic expression.

    I’ve come up with several designs for marking my sourdough (from wild starter that I created only about 3 weeks ago) rounds. They are generally more complex than what you’d find in an artisanal-but-nonetheless-commercial bakery, and because of the difficulty creating the right lines with my less-than-appropriate tools I have been finding myself wishing I had the right tool to score the bread easily. I can’t be part of your target market b/c of lack of funds (at least for a few more months), but that is definitely the kind of thing for which I would happily pay if I had money.

    If people are interested, though, two parallel lines with a skinny diamond shape connecting them across the center of the dough-ball makes body-and-fins for a sea turtle after expansion in the oven. a short but deep cut extending from one point of contact between the diamond and a line will expand into a head. A slightly longer and significantly shallower cut at the opposite end of the diamond produces a perfect tail.

    It’s important to recognize that it’s not the width of your cut or your blade, but the depth of the cut which determines the ultimate width of your textured scar, but if you get it right, and if the rest of your dough-ball was floured before you placed it in the oven, you’ll get an absolutely beautiful sea turtle in yellow, gold and brown lines, with a white-flour carapace swimming through a white-flour sea.

    Enjoy your art, Marcus! Enjoy your knife/lame, jazzlet!

    And jazzlet, if you have any baking photos, I’d be happy to put them up on Pervert Justice! I’d be especially curious to know if you’ve come up with any unique marks for your breads.

  5. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    ack! “Swoopy” version! “Swoopy”!

  6. says

    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden@#6:
    I can’t be part of your target market b/c of lack of funds

    Technically, I am still at the stage where I am basically paying people to take my stuff. These are all experiments. It’s not that they have no value but they’re more like “razor sharp orphans” One thing that’s nice about making my living doing IT stuff is I don’t have to worry about charging money for my art. So, I’ll try to make you one, too.

    I believe the swoopy design might work interlocked on a bar. This is another nice thing about using inkscape to experiment with my designs. I can go:

    So it looks like some pain in the ass cuts but actually less bar goes to waste. Now I know the dimensions of a bar that I will produce by wisely deciding on some metals and mooshing them together at near-melting temperature.

    I keep saying “I will do ${this} or ${that} when I get back from this mission I am on” and usually when I get back I go out again on another. But I will add making 2 of the swoopy bread-cutters to my “to do” list. I’ll need to make a bar and work from there.

    As always: no guarantees. Void where probibited. Do not take internally. Proceed with caution. Buy low, sell high. Standard disclaimers apply, standard applications disclaimed.

    Edit: So I looked at that layout and suddenly realized I can’t GET THERE with straight-line cuts. But then I remembered I have the bridgeport! So I’ll just end-mill a hole in the space where the blades inter-fit then diamond-wheel a straight line from the end of the bar to the hole in the middle. Presto! It begins to dawn on me that machinists have milling machines for a reason.

  7. says

    What I am doing is sneaking slowly and carefully toward being able to make sushi knives based on my own metallurgy. I won’t sell those, either, because they will be worth more to me than money. I know people who will appreciate them and who will use them every day; that’s where they’re slated to go.

    But, yeah, picture that wrought/1095 combination in a long narrow gyuto blade with a bog oak bolster and curly oak handle. Hard as satan’s laughter and sharper than Richard Dawkins. Wait, that’s not very good, is it? I’m not making a mace…

  8. jrkrideau says

    I had never even heard of a bread scoring knife. Nice.

    The last time I saw a discussion about bread scoring the baker was using a piece of sharpened coke can.

  9. cvoinescu says

    What would happen if you crumpled steel soft drink cans and mushed them together into some sort of bar?

  10. says

    What would happen if you crumpled steel soft drink cans and mushed them together into some sort of bar?

    I would need a lot and it wouldn’t produce much in the way of a useful blade. First off, when you’re forge-welding steel together, the more surface area you are exposing to the forge, the more it oxidizes and forms scale – you end up with a lot less metal than you start out with. Unfortunately, it’s a very wasteful process. Then there’s the question of whether the steel would harden, which it probably wouldn’t – I doubt they use good carbon steel.

    That’s assuming it’s even steel – I think most soft drink cans are aluminum.

    By the way, soft drink cans are awesome:

  11. jazzlet says

    Marcus @#4
    Ummmm … I definitely prefer swoopy to tactical, but as for grinding type I have no idea as I don’t understand what the difference would be in performance. As I said before just because of the overall shape and angle of the blade what you produce is going to perform better than anything I have at the moment so do what you want to practise/experiment with.

    Crip Dyke @#6
    It’s the perfect shape for dough slicing isn’t it? And all because Marcus was practising on a bit of left-over material.

    I don’t have any fancy or unusual cuts, mostly I just use simple ones for opening up loaves so they rise properly in the oven. The other one I have used a lot is a grid on a flatish round of dough to produce a bread with a lot of crust in proportion to crumb that is easily tearable, good if you have a bunch of people round, they can tear off different sizes and you’ve no worries about a sharp breadknife being in the hands of either drunk or very young guests. Which as peple have cut themselves using our breadknife when stone cold sober is a consideration, people generally don’t seem to expect breadknives to be sharp. I can’t quite picture how the turtle slashes work even having drawn them out.

  12. says

    As much as I love razorblades, I prefer saw-style breadknives for bread (once it’s baked). We spent our summers in France, and a lot of time was spent cutting a lot of bread – 30 years of French country loaves fell to my blade. And it was a sawblade.

    If I had a CNC mill I could probably make a proper breadknife. Or, the scalloped-edge kind; that would just be a “simple” matter of a few hours with a file. I saw one blade-maker who took 10 rat-tail files and welded them together in a holder exactly the right distance apart (he made a jig for holding the blades correctly before welding) – then he put handles on it. Zip zip zip breadknife! Those scalloped-edge things are wicked horrible to cut yourself with.

  13. jazzlet says

    The one we have has a scalloped edge, and yes you can do really nasty damage with just a little inattention. Part of the reason we have it is that Mr Jazz loves very very crusty bread which a lot of the saw-style bread knives just can’t handle, though I think that’s because for some reason (at least as far as I’ve found over here) people just don’t see to make them good quality.

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